I grew up eating Korean food on a daily basis. Even then, going out for Korean BBQ was always a treat. To this day, it's still a treat and I always look forward to it. I think that little tradition is also taking hold in my family now. In addition, it's an experience that my family and I enjoy sharing with other families. I do feel fortunate that we have great Korean BBQ restaurants to choose from in our little corner of Chicago.
Gogi is fairly new. I noticed it recently as I was driving in the area. It occupies a space that was previously Hae Woon Dae, another Korean BBQ restaurant. I had been there throughout the years but it had begun to decline in quality, in my opinion, and I hadn't been in a while. I looked up some reviews for Gogi and it looked promising. So, I was quite looking forward to checking it out. We had made plans with another family to go out for Korean BBQ so this was the perfect opportunity!
To begin our meal, we ordered fried mandoo and haemul pajeon. As much as I enjoy anything fried, I do prefer the steamed mandoo, which are dumplings. They are the Korean version of pot stickers or gyoza and the filling usually is beef-based. However, the kids at the table wanted the fried option. Can't say I blame them. Haemul pajeon in a seafood and scallion pancake. The texture is more like a thick crepe versus a fluffly pancake. This version had a mix of scallions, mussels and squid. Both of the starters were spot on and a great way to start the meal.
I do enjoy going out for Korean BBQ with a larger group because you can order more of a variety of meat to grill up. This occasion was no exception. I should also mention that Gogi uses real charcoal for the table grills which is so much better than gas grills. So for our charcoal grills on this evening, we chose to order galbi, jumulleok, and ssamgyusal.
Galbi is marinated short rib. To me, galbi is the premier item for Korean BBQ and is my favorite. The combination of the sugar and soy flavors with the aromatic ingredients is just a winner. Everyone has a preference for whether they like their galbi slightly sweeter or maybe with less marinade. Gogi's version is a bit on the sweet side but still delicious.
Jumulleok is unmarinated beef. Sometimes it also short rib but it can be another cut. Gogi's version was short loin, I believe. Once grilled, you usually dip it in a mixture of toasted sesame oil, salt and pepper, then wrap it up in a lettuce leaf with a little Korean chile paste.
Tonight, the star of the show was the ssamgyupsal. Ssamgyupsal is raw pork belly. Gogi also has the option of getting the pork belly herb marinade or wine marinade. I went with the regular unmarinated version. Also, the way it is cooked is different than the other two items we ordered. Ssamgyupsal is cooked on a domed cast iron grill pan. It is also cooked with kimchi, bean sprouts and other vegetables. What makes Gogi's version stand out is how thick and beautiful the slabs of pork belly are. Once the slabs are mostly cooked through, the meat is chopped up and mixed with the kimchi that has now started to caramelize and crisp up. The combination of the cooked kimchi and the chunks of the pork belly are a spectacular combination!
The service at Gogi was quite attentive and friendly. The restaurant itself had been remodeled with lots of wood and added to the overall welcoming feel to the restaurant. I'm looking forward to returning soon.